The world is complex. This weekend it became clear that the complexity of hate changed American history. The trajectory of our narrative, as a country of more than 300 million people, changed dramatically and the world is taking notice. The freedoms this country offers far surpass most of the other 195 counties on the planet. The situation in Orlando was not only tragic for the United States, it was a setback for the LGBT global community and other diverse populations trying to find solid footing in an unstable world.
Narrowing the focus to Buffalo, the cultural capital of this city is multifaceted. It’s close proximity to a large metropolitan area (Toronto); diversity; plethora of historic architecture; creative capital; and most of all, its acceptance of the LGBT community have evolved into an urban tapestry of community. Buffalo also has The Peace Bridge, the Rainbow Bridge and no shortage of rainbows glimmering over the raging waters of Niagara Falls on a regular basis, even in the winter.
Almost ten years after the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, NYC the first rainbow flag was designed in 1978 by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker. The flag was the response local activist’s call for the need of a community symbol. The assassination of Harvey Milk (an openly gay politician) in 1979 led to a demand for the flags. The rainbow flag captured the idea of unity through differences and turned into one of the most recognizable community symbols in the world.
Tonight monuments like the Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building and Peace Bridge will be illuminated in the hues of the rainbow to demonstrate unity, promise and the hope for a more peaceful world tomorrow.
Even though they can be explained scientifically, rainbows have played a role in religion, poetry, philosophy, mythology and metaphors for thousands of years. Rainbows are seen as a sign of renewal or an emblem of promise after a storm. They’re perceived as a bridge linking the visible world to all that lies beyond. They are also fragile bridges of expansive possibility and unity – themes that are being reconfigured as the world comes to terms with how innocent people lost their lives because of a stranger who judged them through the myopic lens (of hate).
Bridges, whether they are architectural or psychological, are necessary to connect people from one place to another. The Rainbow Bridge has a more profound meaning today than we could have ever expected. The Peace Bridge reminds us, even if metaphorically, that peace is possible even when the waters are turbulent.
All lives matter. ■
*Out of respect for the people who lost someone they loved, I would like to ask that comments are sensitive to the pain those people are going through right now. Compassion and empathy are important.
Lead image: WNY Vigil for Pulse – Photo by Nate Neuman